The Returning by Christine Hinwood is a very unorganized book. I’m still in shock after reading it that it was on the Printz Honors List. The writing isn’t bad. In fact it’s easy to get lost in the book and devour a hundred pages at a time. Yet, as the book progresses there is a sense that there’s no point to the book. Things happen and there’s no rhyme or reason.
So what’s the premise of this tome? Cam decides to leave home at a young age and join the war against the Uplanders. I should mention that this novel is set a Middle Ages-esque time period and the Uplanders and the Downlanders are enemies. The Uplanders, lead by Lord Ryuu, have decided to make a foray into Downlander territory and stake a claim. So Cam goes off to fight, gets his arm hacked off by Gyaar Ryuu, Lord Ryuu’s son and is sent packing, with a horse, back to his village. He’s not content to live in his provincial village (I can’t help but think of the opening song in Beauty and the Beast) and decides to go back to the Ryuu family and join their ranks.
Why does he go back? This isn’t given. There’s no explanation as to why he feels more comfortable in the north rather than at home. Granted, you could read into this from a psychological stand point and see it as a Stockholm Syndrome type thing. Then there’s a very homoerotic element that runs throughout the book, but it’s not developed enough to be a firm explanation for the “returning”.
So all in all, I feel the reader is left with more questions than answers. It feels like there needs to be a sequel just to explain the first. If this were one of my students’ essays, I’d give them a D and ask them to address the questions that are left in the reader’s mind.
But at the same time I can’t believe how well Hinwood wrote all of this confusion. Even while there’s no point to it, she does build an interesting world and introduce us to her characters. So I’m giving her the D, and hoping she’ll write an amazing sequel so that I can give her an A in Cannonball Read 7.